Reflecting on 2015: Progress Made and What’s Next in 2016

reflecting on 2015

I have learned that without taking the time to reflect and learn from experiences, you miss out on a huge opportunity for growth, and also a chance to stop and appreciate the positive things that have happened. Here is my year in review, and what I plan for the next year.

Accomplishments/Reflections on 2015:

– Even though things were going well, I felt a bit aimless and without clear direction around 1 year ago

– Like every year, I have made great progress at becoming a better, wiser, more confident person

– Proud of the things I did to intentionally accomplish those things

– Created a more intentional personal brand, and also a stronger business brand (people are formally referring it by acronym, score!)

– Launched a podcast

– Got a ton better at sales, networking, marketing, organization, project management, hiring, management, etc. Got better at pretty much everything business related.

– Learned enough brazillian Juijitsui to be able to tap out purple belts

– Hit 195 lbs (mostly muscle) while increasing bench/squat/deadlift by 30-50%

– Got no’s for like 100 awesome things, such as pitching Seth Godin (and also yes’s to a lot of awesome audacious things too)

– Team grew by 100% (and another 100% soon) and this corresponded with about 150% growth in revenue

In a nutshell, I am happy that I grew a ton (by failing a ton, woo!), and feel like I finally made the formal transition away from a just getting started, “do random things” entrepreneur, to one with a clear plan, direction, and focus, who makes consistent progress.

For 2016….

Business Goals/Metrics:

– Invest in myself least 70k /year (Interestingly, this relates more to asset allocation than to an actual increase in revenue – I tend to live simply and invest 100% in my business, but this year I want to invest a bit more in my personal growth and happiness)

– Fulfilment of client services 100% automated, sales 75% automated

– <20 hours/week of “grinding” work, rest of time on “growth” or “inspired” work

– Grow email list to 10k subscribers

– Work with at least 1-3 “slightly famous” clients on their courses

– Connect (and help if possible, even for free) with at least 3 “legit famous” entrepreneurs. Example, Seth Godin, Russell Brunson, Leo Baboata, etc.


Bucket List Items:

– Learn how to use a DJ table and make my own edm/dubstep remix that I can work to

– Compete in an official arts match (probably MMA or BJJ)

– Apply to speak at TedX in at least 2 locations

– Finally get rid of persistent back/neck pain that I’ve had since 14 (lots of progress but still a ways to go)


Skills/Growth:

– Go one week without complaining or experiencing significant anxiety (I stress about stuff more than I would like)

– Grow to the point I can confidently say I exhibit all of these strengths on at least a semi-regular basis (by practicing the ones I suck at): http://www.reconnect.salvos.org.au/strengthspicture.jpg 

– Become conversationally fluent in Spanish

– Become not terrible at singing – criteria is to not be embarassed to sing in public

– Learn hip hop dancing/b-boying

– Adjust schedule so that I can consistently work out 3 times/week without feeling rushed, stressed, or work out

– 30 minutes meditation daily (never falling off track for more than a week)


Travel/Experiential:

– Visit Colombia, Cuba, and Brasil (there will probably be more but that is the starting list)

– Capoiera and BJJ in Brasil

– Salsa in Colombia and Cuba


Now your turn! What is your #1 biggest lesson learned from the past year? The number one thing you are most excited about for the next year?

The Mechanics of Mastery (And Why We Give Up)

A Zen Master and one of his disciples in a Zen garden. Behind their a some clouds crossing in front the moon. They belong to the tradition of Zen Buddhism.

Inspired by a talk given by Jesse Lawler

Do you believe most skills are learned, or innate?

Chances are it’s a mix of the two – maybe you believe you can learn new skills but you are still “not a math person.” Or have two left feet. Or just aren’t an athletic person.

Bullshit.

I believe the three most destructive mental dispositions that exist are:

1. Insecurity – the underlying source of most negative emotions
2. Fixed mindset – the belief that traits are mostly fixed (the source of giving up because you don’t believe you can improve, as well as things like an incarceration system which focuses on punishment rather than reform)
3. Believing emotions are external/real – this is when one might see emotions as an environmental byproduct, an objectively real attribute of the world (I am mad because you insulted me), versus a subjective reaction to a situation (I am mad because you said words to me which I took as an insult which hurt my pride. This caused negative emotions in me – they are from me and they are mine.)

This post is about #2.

Let’s say you want to get better at something…how do you do it?

“Just practice. Practice makes perfect.”

But what if you don’t get better right away? Or don’t even KNOW if you are getting better?

Here’s how the 4 phases of competence work (and why it’s so easy to get frustrated at new things): 

1. Unconscious incompetence – you don’t know what you don’t know and suck at.

2. Conscious incompetence – you know what you don’t know and are bad at.

3. Conscious competence – you start to get good, but it takes a lot of conscious effort.

4. Unconscious competence – you are good, and can be good without really thinking about it. This is true mastery.

Why is this really interesting? Because it explains why it is easy to give up

Think about the actual experience of feeling extremely overwhelmed and ridiculous by a new skill or concept. This is where the fixed mindset tends to rear its ugly head.

If you aren’t familiar with the above phases then it might be easy to conclude “I am just bad at this” instead of understanding “I am in the conscious incompetence phase.”

It is easy to think “it’s just too difficult,” “I’ll always be bad at it,” “I’m just not a natural,” etc. Then you give up.

How this plays out in real life

Example 1 – Not A Good Way To Learn

I’m a terrible rapper. I had a good friend growing up who loved to rap, so it led to some extremely embarrassing moments.

I have a memory of smoking weed with my rapping friend and some of the “cool kids” in high school showed up (all of this is extremely contradictory with my personal identity – I was feeling WAY out of place).

All of the sudden, we end up in a circle, with people rap battling each other. Everyone was taking a turn. One by one.

Shit.

Important note: I am extremely reactive to most substances, and I definitely wasn’t used to smoking weed. So at that moment I was actually unable talk, and had just slightly drooled on myself while watching as the dog of one of the “cool kids” seemed to lick my hand then instantly disappear.

So when it was my turn, people continued to beatbox and someone tells me “Your turn Grant!” I pause awkwardly, and all I can do is anxiously blurt out..

“SKIP!”

…then proceed to avoid eye contact.

The point of this story is that this kind of embarrassment is very common when people start a new skill. Needless to say, that did not greatly encourage me to think that rapping is something I could ever be good at. And because of this, the whole thing is uncomfortable for me and something I’ve avoided ever since.

Example 2 – A Great Way To Learn

Not only was I always a bit socially awkward, but historically I was quite clumsy.

Yet somehow I got really really good at salsa dancing, which is not a common occurrence amongst uncoordinated introverts.

There were many reasons why this happened, but a key one was having a great first experience with it:

A few years back a friend invites me to a random salsa dancing event on the weekend. Neither of us had danced anything before, and we were both the types to hide in the corner during a high school dance, but it still sounded like fun to try.

We walk into a nice hotel, and there are about 20 people from all over the world dancing skillfully to types of music which sounded extremely foreign to me.

I played the alto sax for many years, so I actually have a great sense of rhythm…but I honestly couldn’t even comprehend the beat to salsa dancing when I first heard it, let alone dance to it!

This is the transformative moment – when something is uncomfortable, overwhelming and out of place. Either things go really well and you want more, or you have a negative experience that you avoid in the future, concluding “I am just not a dancer.”

But when my friend and I walked in and started trying to learn, there was immediately a warm aura of patience and acceptance without judgement.

Beautiful women would walk up to me, ask me to dance, then try to show me things. There was great patience when I made lots of mistakes, as well as a ton of encouragement and delight when I did something correctly.

I had an amazing time, and so I went back again and again and again.

Just like rapping I was terrible to begin with, but the difference was the social and emotional push to continue versus avoid out of fear of future embarrassment.

Studies show that when people learn a new skill, positive feedback is much more effective (“awesome you just did that right!”) than criticisms (“you just did that wrong!”). It is only once you are already skilled that constructive criticism becomes an asset instead of a hindrance.

Can you think of a time when you had a strong negative experience that deterred you from improving at a new skill? A time when you had a great experience with a new skill that kept you coming back for more?

Here are the key takeaways:

1. Your ability to be great is directly dependent with your ability to put up with being really BAD.
2. Positive or negative experiences early in the process of learning a skill can make or break it for you, so be careful about your learning environment.

If you can deal with sucking, you can get excellent easily over time, if you cannot deal with sucking, then you will give up at everything before you can put in the time to get good at it. I see this all the time.


Further Reading:

Why The Law Of Attraction Is Bullshit (And What To Do Instead)

I live in Chiang Mai, Thailand at the moment, and there is a whole lot of meditation, yoga, alternative medicine, etc.

Some of that stuff is really great, but there is one massive, extremely dangerous misconception which needs to be rectified.

I have heard way to many people talk about “The Law of Attraction” – otherwise known as “the secret” – in a way that raises all kinds of red flags. A quick formal definition (thanks Google):

The law of attraction is the name given to the maxim “like attracts like” which in New Thought philosophy is used to sum up the idea that by focusing on positive or negative thoughts a person brings positive or negative experiences into their life.

That definition, in itself, is profoundly useful and accurate. Focusing and visualizing positive or negative experiences DOES have the (very obvious and rational effect) of causing correspondingly good or bad things to happen.

Positive Example: If you constantly visualize your goals and ideal self, then you will automatically recognize opportunities to progress towards each, and also catch yourself doing things that are inconsistent with them. (See Cognitive Dissonance).

Negative Example: If you are obsessed with the idea that your significant other is going to leave you, then you will start to inadvertently sabotage your relationship and basically guarantee that it will indeed happen sooner or later.

Great. Use this effect, and use it well.

But here’s the problem…

Too many people misinterpret this principle as some magical, mystical principle which REPLACES taking intentional action to actually achieve what you want.

Yes thinking about it is cool, but you actually have to DO something to make it happen. In. Every. Single. Situation. Even if it’s just recognizing and pursuing an opportunity that “the universe has magically manifested” for you.

I have a really good friend who talks a lot about all the things she wants. I want this relationship, that job, this house, blah blah blah. And she writes about it, visualizes it, and does all the “secrets.” That’s all great, but what I have constantly told her is that you can’t just stop there, you also have take action. And I was listening to a Darren Hardy talk the other day and he framed it really well:

(Paraphrasing) You can’t just think about what you want, you have to understand who you need to be to achieve what you want.

(Thanks to Hugh Bayati for sending me this talk.)

 Go ahead and visualize your perfect spouse every night, and journal about them too…

But if you are not working on YOURSELF to become the kind of person you have to be to attract that kind of person (or client, or opportunity, or income) then it doesn’t matter how much you visualize it, even if you find the opportunity you will be unable to take advantage of it.

If you have the HABITS of a minimum wage employee, then it doesn’t matter how much you wait for the universe to “manifest” for you that 7-figure income… It just ain’t gonna happen.

Ok. Enough ranting about what you shouldn’t do. Let’s talk about what works really well.

Whenever I have a list of things I want to work on, or goals I want to achieve, I always focus on those involved with working on myself first. After all, I truly believe that investing yourself pays off infinitely more than any other investment you could possibly make.

Whether that is in the form of education, correcting some negative thinking patterns, taking care of your health, etc, it is all essential. Your body, your mind, and your character are the foundation for everything else.

Here’s a confession: I don’t like spending money. I grew up pretty poor, so I am pretty frugal.

But I literally spent $87.68 just yesterday on books I will read. I will be reviewing a course about programming and growth hacking that I think I will pick up later today for $149. Over 50% of my current expenses involve self-education, increasing my productivity, or improving my health.

Meanwhile I prefer to cook my own food because it saves a few bucks (and it’s healthier).

Whatever amount of time, energy, money, and social capital you have to invest… always invest as much of it as possible in your foundation – growth, health, and integrity.

If you do this, then…

  • When your dream client shows up, you are professional and skilled enough to work with them (and do a great job).

  • When you have to pull an all-nighter to land a partnership with your dream mentor, you have the physical energy and emotional fortitude to handle it.

  • When that woman you’ve “been looking for all your life” shows up, you can attract her and make her happy in a relationship (versus her thinking you are just another lazy/arrogant/boring/immature loser).

I like concrete action steps, so here are a few:

  1. What is your biggest psychological hangup, and how can you work on it?

  2. Are you currently living the way that the kind of person who achieves everything you want in life has to live? If you want to invent the next Tesla, then either start working as much as Elon Musk or change your vision.

  3. Instead of thinking only about the things that you want, consider who do you want to be? Don’t just talk about how you want to give a Ted Talk next year, but work to develop the confidence, connections, and charisma required to do so.

The most important question:

Who is that person in your mind who is achieving all of your hopes and dreams, and what is the difference between you as you currently are, and that person?

– – –

Mentioned in this post:

The Law of Attraction

Darren Hardy on Success

– My good buddy Hugh Bayati

Elon Musk, Hard Work and Little Sleep

Now that you know you can’t just wait for good things to happen with you, check out my other post on how to make things happenWillpower is Overrated

One Habit To Transform Your Life: Read One Book Per Week

Apologies for the cliché title, but if I made a list of things that I personally find transformative… learning, and especially reading, would be towards the top. It’s a true game-changer.

I have always been a voracious reader. In fact I remember how often I would get called a nerd in school by other kids for reading, or yelled at by teachers when I would get bored, stop listening, and pull out a book in class.

I mean if you’re not going to teach me I might as well teach myself right?

No! Bad student! (Read: soulless mind-slave). Yay for social pressures to stop doing positive things! 🙂

Nevertheless, I still read a ton to this day. I have found the simple act of grabbing a good book when you want to learn about a topic or acquire a skill is transformative. And I use that word without exaggeration.

Isn’t it amazing to think that knowledge on almost any topic is just a book away?

For any topic you could ever want to learn about, there is someone who has studied the topic for decades and condensed all of it into a few hundred pages.

Simply put… it’s really freaking cool when you think about it.

Recently a couple friends of mine started the habit of reading 1 book per week, or 50 books in a year. This wasn’t a long way from what I was already doing, so I decided to jump on that bandwagon!

Here’s my current reading list that I am building out for this year:

Titles

The Power of Vulnerability

Play: How it shapes the brain and opens imagination

59 Seconds

80/20 Sales and Marketing

Breakthrough Rapid Reading

Influence (audiobook)

Personal Development for Smart People

Rich Dad’s Cashflow Quadrant

Ask

Never Eat Alone

Content Machine

Charisma on Command

Little Red Book of Selling + The Secrets of Consulting

Cashvertising

Get Slightly Famous

The One Thing

This Book Will Teach You How to Write Better

Problogger: 6 Figure Blog

The Ultimate Sales Machine

Traction: A Startup Guide to Getting Customers

Brain Rules

Profit First

The Psychology of Selling

Bold: How to Go Big

Losing My Virginity

Execution IS the Strategy: How Leaders Achieve Maximum Results in Minimum Time

The Power of Forgetting: Six Essential Skills to Clear Out Brain Clutter and Become the Sharpest, Smartest You

Fooled by Randomness

Book Yourself Solid Illustrated: The Fastest, Easiest, and Most Reliable System for Getting More Clients Than You Can Handle Even if You Hate Marketing and Selling

Antifragile

Are You Fully Charged?: The 3 Keys to Energizing Your Work and Life

Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World

Speak to Win: How to Present with Power in Any Situation

The 48 Laws of Power

The Charisma Myth: How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business

The Gifts of Imperfection

Daring Greatly

Do More Great Work

I Thought It Was Just Me (But It Isn’t)

(I actually have a full list of books I want to read that is several hundred titles long)

In just a few months, it’s exciting that I will have learned a ton about…

  • Work-life balance
  • Psychology
  • Relationships
  • Marketing
  • Brand-building
  • Influence and charisma
  • Networking
  • Finance
  • Productivity/efficiency

In fact (geek out moment here) I often find myself getting overly excited about books…

“Oh! I can learn more about evolutionary psychology with this book! And how to read facial expressions with this one…Oh cool and I always wanted to learn a bit more about a Buddhist monk’s view on quantum entanglement!” (real examples)

And then I proceed to buy dozens of books that I will never have the time to read.

This is one of the reasons why I think it will be helpful to be more intentional about this goal. I tend to read random books at random times, but this way I will be able to track how much I read, and WHAT I am actually reading.

I’ve created the above list based on which books (out of the list several hundred long) best relate to my current goals.

“What gets measured gets managed.” – Peter Drucker

Great strategies to maximize this goal:

  1. Read 30 minutes every morning and evening (AWESOME way to start and end the day and automatically knocks out 1 book per week)
  2. Listen to audiobooks at 1.5x speed (or 2x if you can handle it) – Thanks Kurt for this suggestion.
  3. Create an Evernote notebook called “Book Notes” and create one note for each book to jot down ideas and realizations.
  4. Make sure to take action on at least 1 thing from every book that you read – it’s not just what you know but what you DO with what you know! (The Evernote tip makes this a lot easier)

 

 One final thought:

I have a weird fear I will run out of things to read/learn some day. The thought is that yes you can learn the basics of everything in a book, and most intermediate level topics, but if you want to learn about advanced particle physics or something, the list of available topics is quite a bit smaller.

Then you have to start picking up textbooks to read. And that just sucks…

What are YOU reading this year?

If you DON’T have a reading list, what is something that you can drop to find an extra 30 minutes per day to automatically have the time to read dozens of books this year

– – –

Not only am I trying to read every day, but I’m trying to *write* every day as well! Check out my newest habit here: How to Create New Habits (And Watch Me Create One Live!)

A really nice Huffington Post article on How to Read a Book a Week

The Power of Anti-Modeling

Day 3 of New Writing Habit

Technically this is day 4, but my previous day 3 got deleted! This is also a week later, as I fell off track due to life circumstances. 🙁

But no worries – I am happy to practice the art of getting back on track, which in many ways is more challenging (and more important) than setting an initial habit.

– – –

I believe few of you are new to the concept of modeling. This is the idea that you choose someone who has accomplished a goal, skill set, lifestyle, etc. that you want to achieve also, and so you study what they do – copying them, in order to copy their results.

Whether many of you actually apply this is another matter, but also a subject for a different post!

But there is an opposite method which I have found actually MORE helpful in my own life than modeling. And through this technique I have accomplished many things I am truly proud of, while avoiding countless pitfalls of many people around me.

That method is called anti-modeling.

The problem with the traditional method of modeling is that it can be really difficult to get access to the people you want to model.

Maybe you can find their autobiography or follow their blog, but in many cases the only access you are able to find is at best several steps removed.

But what is infinitely abundant is the number of anti-models out there.

Think about it:

How many people have accomplished already exactly what you are trying to achieve? A handful, a couple thousand, or maybe even a couple million people depending on how ambitious your goals are.

Now how many people have accomplished something you do NOT want? The answer is everyone else. All 6.99 billion of them.

How does this work in the real world?

It’s easy. Just look at your local garbage-man, that racist guy down the street, that uncle of yours who never amounted to anything, your cousin who dropped out of college and ended up in jail a few times.

Or even the uninspired masses who live day to day with no real sense of purpose.

All you have to do is observe the choices each of these people have made to achieve these outcomes.

Here are some examples that I have personally learned from:

1. Many of those in business have accomplished great “success” but without a sense of purpose, and this ultimately leads to indulging in short-term pleasures like drugs, constantly getting wasted, or prostitutes.

2. My mother has a fixed mindset when it comes to learning certain things, and so she is unable to do so. For example, if you say the word “math” to her she stops listening, and so she can never learn anything new about that topic due to her beliefs about it.

3. My father has emotional issues he has never dealt with. And the result is he has destroyed many (actually most) of his personal relationships, been to jail a few times for assaulting his girlfriends, and other things that are super uncool.

Now, this may seem super judgmental. I suppose in some ways it is, but the point is not to make judgments about the person, but to observe causes and effects.

One example:

There is a common storyline that goes something like: get some kind of “normal” job out of college, get wasted and work a lame job until you are in your late 20’s, get frustrated/disenchanted with life and your work, quit your job to “find yourself” for a year or so, discover your purpose and work you enjoy in a radically different field or lifestyle.

Personally, I wanted to skip to the last part, so I took those who have lived the above as anti-models and did the opposite, going straight to the last step.

Another example:

There is a chain of causality that leads from a woman being enchanted by the idea of “chivalry” which inexorably leads in many cases to the effect of frequently dating “assholes.”

(It would take too long to illustrate here the exact reason for this, but if you want to test it just ask any woman who mentions that she likes “chivalrous” men how many times she has dated an asshole. The typical answer – a lot. The short explanation is that “chivalrous” usually equals spending money or being confidently assertive, which means the bad person who buys a lot of flowers will always win out against the shy nice guy.)

The point then, is not that there is anything inherently wrong with choosing men based on “chivalry”, or those who choose a corporate job out of college. But if you want a different outcome, then you can easily take control of the chain of causality which leads to assholes…or feeling like you wasted your 20’s.

Just do the opposite of everyone who has achieved the opposite of what you want, and you will get what you want.

Who would some of your anti-models be? And what have you learned/gained from observing them? Let me know in the comments! I’m super interested to hear and chat about it.

–––

If you were intrigued by the idea, read more on modeling here: http://www.yourdailylifecoach.com/modeling.html

And watch me make my first attempt at this new writing habit: http://grantweherley.com/create-new-habits/

Best Way to Start the Day: Invest in Yourself

[Day 2 of habit formation]

The number to beat: 676 (mostly coherent) words.

invest in yourself

I am not famous for my intricate planning of small details ahead of time, as I prefer to just dive straight into things (like this post). So one thing that I have spontaneously decided is that this will be a 21 day experiment.

That’s 21 days of writing 20 minutes per day.

21 days is usually thrown around as the rule of thumb for the formation of a new habit. Good enough for me!

Lately, I’ve been focusing intensely these kinds of systems in my business and routines in my life (can I call those life systems?). Many high performers discuss routines and habits and such that they have found beneficial to their productivity and peace of mind, however there is one subtle distinction that I have recently realized.

You have to like your routine.

This may sound exceedingly obvious, however what we WANT to do, and what we WISH that we would WANT to do are two very different things.

Many time I have created intricate habits and routines that immediately fell apart because they ended up being merely an uninspiring lists of things to do, before my actual list of things to do.

Instead, I have found that adding a productive treat to my mornings makes all the difference.

I still have a list of things to do as a routine, but at the end of it I give myself 30 minutes to play around with whatever I am most interested in or excited about at the time.

The day before yesterday it was reading, yesterday it was goal-setting, and today it was setting up IFTTT [link] recipes for both my business and personal life.

The cool thing is that those 30 minutes are productive, varied, and enjoyable.

What always ends up killing my routines is that they end up feeling like boring work. Adding this element gives me something new every day to look forward to. 

It is easy as a busy business owner to wake up, and then immediately think about your list of things you HAVE to do.

Bleh.

Sure, those things are important, but life is more fun when you have some time to play around with whatever is most interesting to you at that time (whether or not it is prudent to spend your time on that).

Because as a pretty ADHD person with an impressively short attention span, I find that I get extremely interested in random things all of the time…but unfortunately they are almost NEVER what I should actually be doing at the time.

Invest in yourself

There is a concept out of Rich Dad, Poor Dad that goes something like spend your money on yourself first (or something like that – don’t yell at me I know I am misquoting!).

Honestly I always thought it was a counter-intuitive and largely unhelpful principle (I would always rather invest profits back into my business first – or maybe that is considered “myself”?) but I really love this principle when it comes to investments of time.

You should always invest your time in yourself first.

What does that mean?

Say you have an 8 hour/day job. Rather than having your primary focus being to invest 8 hours of your time and a large portion of your energy into your job/business FIRST, instead take the time to invest in YOURSELF first.

This includes taking the time to make sure you are healthy, happy, and balanced before you worry about your obligations.

This can also mean reading an interesting book, learning more about your craft, setting up some systems in your business or life that will save you time later, reviewing your goals/purpose/vision, or evening watching an inspiring youtube video.

Because inspiration and knowledge, my friends, pays dividends.

Results: 603 words

Progress: -11%

Lessons learned: I tried to add some formatting as I went, but this interrupted my flow and slowed things down considerably.

How To Create New Habits (And Watch Me Create One Live)

woman deciding whether to eat healthy food or sweet cookies she craving

This is a test.

To see how much I can furiously write within 20 minutes. (A habit of my friend and bestselling author, Mike Harrington).

The starting point: according to Grammarly I already type more weekly than 99% of it’s users, and that is without a habit of writing every morning.

Oh snap.

The progress will still be massive and immediate because that is what happens once you are consistent at any skill. 

That is what has happened with any skill that I’ve ever developed. For example, I became an awesome salsa dancer at one point because I did it constantly. By contrast, I’ve done half a dozen types of martial arts completely randomly over the past several years (longer than dancing in fact) however I am still incredibly mediocre, if not just plain bad.

Fortunately, with martial arts at least you can power through it if you are fit, which has (usually) kept me from getting totally demolished 🙂

However, I have had some Tae Kwon Do guys kick me in the face a few times. It’s really hard to see those kicks coming! But I digress…

The goal: to get to the point where I can knock out a reasonably high quality blog post within 20 minutes. Of course there will be some extra time spent formatting, linking, etc. (goal is only 10 minutes to keep in under 30 minutes total) however this will allow me to be more consistent with posting – something I have been wanting to do for a long time.

Even if it take a couple days and 20 minute sessions to knock out a post, no matter because the point is consistency.

And that is the power of habits.

I am aiming for the following outcomes:

Increased writing speed, quality, and overall skills at writing (practice makes perfect)

Regular output of content via the written word. Up til now I have been inconsistent in this modality. Time to change that!

I finally get to figure out how to use that Scrivener program I downloaded way back when. Yay! In fact, I just realized that I think I’ve bought it twice and never used it…

[5 minutes in – my wrists already feel uncomfortable from the fast writing]

The interesting thing is I have no idea how or if I plan to use this post at all.

In the back of my head, I am thinking maybe it would make for an interesting “live” experiment to post what I create daily as a blog post series so people can read whatever I create, but also observe the development of a new habit. 

We tend to have unrealistic expectations of things, and when it comes to habits I believe we tend to be overly pessimistic/unrealistic for the level of effort it takes to change a habit.

It is true that it CAN take a ton of effort to change a habit, but only if you do it incorrectly. 

Habits are supposed to make your life easier, and in fact there are ways to make your life easier WHILE you are changing your habits.

Here are some strategies for creating winning habits as easily as possible:

  1. Focus on small but consistent habits – a good example is to floss one tooth
  2. Don’t get overwhelmed – I’ve made the mistake of trying to start 5 new habits at once. This. Never. Works. Do one at a time.
  3. Connect new habits to something you already do – if you are going to floss one tooth as your new habit, then add it to the current habit you (hopefully) already do of brushing your teeth every morning/evening
  4. Celebrate your wins – give yourself positive feedback every time you do your new habit. Examples would be an awesome dance, eating a small piece of chocolate, tindering for 5 minutes, or whatever else gets your rocks off.
  5. Track progress – use the coach.me app to stay on track and monitor progress

Check out the Tiny Habits methodology for more on this simple, but ingenious, method.

[Boom: 20 minutes over. Good stopping point too!]

Total word count in 20 minutes: 676 words

Overall level of coherence: Medium

Flow (opposite of scatterbrained-ness): Medium-low

New Workflow To 10x Your Productivity

Being in the zone is awesome. In fact, you are actually 500% more effective when you are in a state of flow. The difficulty? Very few people set themselves up to ever work in this state. Part of the reason is environmental, the subject of another day’s post, but the other necessary ingredient is a method of organization and a workflow that is conducive to frequently entering this state.

Awesome focus and productivity

When I was in school, I was one of those crumpled-paper-stuffed-into-my-backpack types. Now that I wear my big boy entrepreneur pants, I’m at the other end of the spectrum. I got sick of what inevitably happens when you aren’t organized and prioritized. Tell me if this sounds familiar:

  • Inbox 0? Try inbox 100
  • You occasionally stumble across emails or notes with information or opportunities that you “missed” because you found them too late
  • A typical day involves switching between half a dozen projects and sub-projects
  • There’s a constant background stress that you are forgetting something important

The problem with typical to-do lists is that the list quickly becomes overwhelmed when you set 3 items for the day and at the end of the day your list has turned into 10. This creates the sensation that you have gotten nowhere and are not doing what is most important. If you manage to avoid that problem then you end up failing to capture ideas and new tasks, and you  won’t have them on hand when you need them.

Personally, I was sick of it. So, upon the recommendation of a friend I picked up Getting Things Done by David Allen. Now I’m going to be honest…it was a terrible book. I have absolutely no idea why it is wildly popular. I couldn’t even get through it! BUT…the overarching point and method (which is extremely simple as you will see below) is golden, even if the book is lacking in the application department.

Warning: if you are lazy you should stop reading here, because you won’t end up following through with this. The system is relatively complex and will take a few hours to set up. You might even have to re-read this post a couple times to get it down. But once you do, it’s easy to maintain and you will end up saving tons of time and see an immediate increase in your productivity.

Summary of Getting Things Done by David Allen

The brain is a beautiful thing, but in some ways it has consistent, systematic failures.  One major shortcoming that kills organization and productivity is how we have a terrible time remembering things at the right time. Instead, we worry, ponder, and have our thoughts race at 3am.

This kind of stress is most often a result of open loops which have 3 causes:

  1. A lack of clarity of intended outcomes
  2. Not knowing the next step for important projects
  3. Not having reminders of the outcome and immediate next step in a system that you trust

The Five Steps To Solve This Problem:

  1. Capture – record thoughts, ideas, and initiatives for all projects, large and small
  2. Clarify – understand what it means and how important it is
  3. Organize – put it where it belongs
  4. Reflect – review frequently
  5. Engage – actually do the task

For you visual learners out there… here’s a pretty flowchart!

GTD+workflow+diagram

If your organizational system is functioning correctly, it should always….

  1. Allow you to have the relevant information on hand
  2. Indicate what you should be working on at any given point in time

If your system does not have these properties you will inevitably lose track of that important note to send an email to your team at 1pm, or you spend all day working just to realize at 10pm you completely forgot to do that main project you originally intended to do.
Pretty simple right? The book doesn’t really give you a way to implement this process, so I’ve created my own system that I wanted to share with you which will completely transform the way you work.

Through months of trial and error I’ve created a relatively advanced organizational system and workflow which has allowed me to be more productive than ever. With this system you will be able to manage dozens of projects and initiatives without letting a single thing fall through the cracks, no matter how small. You will also always know what is most important, and what you should be working on, in any context or situation. Sound good? Great – let’s get started!

The Formula of Super-Achievers

The key to any organizational system is prioritization. This involves always doing the most important things, but even more importantly never doing the less important things. Your first reaction to that sentence might be to disagree with it, but just stop and ask yourself why you would ever do something that is not the #1 most important thing for any given moment! For more on this topic, listen to this great talk.

To summarize the formula of Super-Achievers, and to create a framework of prioritization we will be using later, we will focus on 6 principles:
1. STOP doing more THINGS (this is what fools do)
2. Master the FEW that MATTER (usually 2-3 things in any time period)
3. Out-focus everyone else
4. Outlast everyone else through unbreakable consistency
5. Measure progress
6. FAIL more than everyone else (through failing often and hard you will get the biggest breakthroughs)

We want our system to incorporate these ideas, but in reality few people are able to pick 2-3 things out of everything that they do, while dropping everything else. So instead, we will use a system that allows for focus on the few things that matter, without having to worry about those small odds and ends that will inevitably derail us.

This means our setup should always allow us to knock out those big, important, audacious projects, while keeping track of those less important tangents and distractions so that we can deal with them later.

Creating This System For Yourself

1. We will be using a very specific setup on the Evernote platform. The first step is to set up and account if you don’t already have one, then delete all unnecessary tags and stacks. Chances are you have probably used Evernote off and on but in a relatively disorganized way. I was in the same boat until two months ago.

2. Create a “GTD” stack with the following notebooks: Projects, Processing, and Completed. Also a shared notebook for your team if applicable. It looks like this:

Evernote workflow

3. Create a separate “Filing” stack with reference material for projects, learning, etc. I also keep a notebook for notes with important points from all books that I read. It should look something like…

Screen Shot 2015-04-01 at 5.50.51 PM

4. Create a note for every major project (business and personal) and add to the Projects notebook.

A note on what qualifies as a “project”:
I’ve played around with a couple versions of this system, and one source recommended creating a project note for basically everything – every project and every step of the project. A note for “redesign blog” and “go to store to pick up toilet paper”. You can quickly see the potential problems you would run into – you’ll have 50-100 of these and there is no difference in prioritization between toilet paper and the next major step in your business! This is a total nightmare and best to be avoided.

Instead, we will be creating notes for larger projects, and a few categorical notes which compile less important items which still need to be done. Some examples of current project notes I have are: List of blog posts to write, Plan and run a webinar, Grow my email list, Product launch project, Online course marketing initiatives, Coaching, etc. Each of these notes should begin with an overarching description of a goal or desired outcome for the project (ex: get 3 new coaching clients) and include at least the first step you should be taking.

Finally, create an “Errands” project note that you can throw in the random odds and ends that are conducive to batching, such as shopping, filling up your tires, going by the post office, etc.

5. Create the following notes to add to the Processing notebook:

Screening: This note is for quickly jotting down everything when you are in a rush. Business ideas, to-dos, etc. You will be regularly sorting this, but having an initial place to jot everything down is essential.

Someday: This is where you store things you want to do “someday” but that are not CRITICAL right now. Be very harsh with what is important at this moment, otherwise you will be overwhelmed with too many projects.

Routine: This note is where you store your morning and evening routines, your work routine, as well as your notes on the workflow of this

Priorities: Create a list of ALL your projects. Every. Last. One. Then pick the top 2-3 that are most important this week. It’s difficult but extremely important to do this, and repeat this exercise at the beginning of every week, because often your priorities will shift from week to week.

GTD Method: It’s important to remember to screen your setup regularly to keep it optimized (thoroughly described below). As you are reading this post, take notes on the step by step process of this system, and put it in a note to review once/week for the time being. This way you remember how it works, keep it squeaky clean, and won’t lose track of something important, like forgetting that you even have a Screening note for example. Here is a screenshot of the most important part of my GTD Method note which I use as a checklist during a quick weekly review (to be discussed shortly):

GTD Methodology

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next step…

6. Create the following tag breakdown:

Evernote tag breakdown for GTD system

You can copy the above structure exactly, with the exception of the “.Who” and “.Projects” categories. For these you will want to customize this for your own team and list of overarching categories of projects, such as youtube, blog, product development, course creation, etc. There might be multiple youtube projects, for example, which would all be listed under the “youtube” tag when you click on it.

Note: pay close attention to the exact way the tags are entered. The periods are intentional – they make the tag structure show up at the top of your tag list and in a particular order.

This tag structure is one of the fundamental parts of this system. This breakdown allows you the flexibility to choose what is most important to work on at any moment. If you are at the office, what do you need to be working on? If you have only 15 minutes before a meeting, what should you be doing? Etc.

7. Go through and tag all project notes you’ve made with the appropriate identifiers from the tag list above – when, where, relevant project, etc.

Integrating with Google Calendar:

So far everything that we have set up is great for prioritization and organization, but doesn’t capture events that happen at specific times. For those team meetings, business lunches, and webinar calls we incorporate something like Google Calendar. You can also use this to map out specific blocks of time to have uninterrupted focus on a larger project.

Other optional integrations:

Todoist – an alternative to Google Calendar if you favor list formats over calendar formats

Lifetick – good option for more advanced long-term goals and planning if you’d like something more intricate than a prioritization note

Typical Work Day With This Organization:

Preparation is everything. The night before, I always do a quick review of where I am with my current priorities and which project I want to focus on the next day, as well as any scheduled appointments or interviews I might have.

On the day of work, the first thing I always do is a very specific morning routine – the importance of which will be the topic of another post. Upon sitting down to work…

1. What priorities did I set the night before?

2. How much time do I have until my next interruption? This could be lunch, a phone call, or an appointment.  This will often determine which initial list of tasks you should be looking at. If you’ve only got an hour, you probably shouldn’t be sitting down to write 2,000 words for your next book, as that requires uninterrupted flow.

3. Are there any other special circumstances in the moment? Is there a person at hand I normally don’t have access to, or am I in a location that I need to do certain things in?

4. Pick the applicable framework and get to work!

5. After lunch, process email – all emails should either be archived, responded to (if less than 2 minutes), or added to your “Screening” or “Someday” notes.

As you work – things will naturally come up. Someone asks you for a quick favor, you remember you need to grab milk, or maybe there’s a nasty product review you find that you need to address. Anything. If this new item takes less than 2 minutes, do it right away. If it takes longer and is not related to your chosen priorities for the day, immediately add it to your “Screening” note and don’t look at it again until the end of the day. This takes some practice and self-control, but I promise you will be more productive if you do this.

Towards the end of the day – review your “Screening” list (process below) and set the priorities for the next day, making sure to consider the context you will be working under the next day, in terms of location, interruptions, appointments, etc. Don’t pick a priority that will clash with your day. Set a daily reminder in your phone or calendar to do this step. This will help you add items to this list and immediately move on, because you will have the confidence that they won’t be forgotten. There are no “open loops”.

Maintaining The System:

Like any system, this one requires a bit of maintenance. As mentioned this requires a quick daily look at your “Screening” and
“Prioritization” notes. The final requirement to maintain this system is to do a quick review at the end of the week. For me this typically takes an hour and makes sure I keep kicking butt every single week.

Scheduled Sunday Maintenance:

1. Screening the “Screening” note

Just like at the end of each day, you will want to go back and process anything else floating around on this note. Here’s how to quickly process each item:

  • Does it take less than two minutes? Do it now (you should have already done it)
  • Is it not super important? Add to “Someday” list or “Errands” list
  • Is it important and related to a specific project? Add to that project note, or create a new project note under the same project tag (depending on the size)

2. ” Someday” list review

Have any of these become important? Add to related project note. Have any of these become no longer worth pursuing or thinking about? Great, then delete them! Otherwise, just leave them.

3. Long-term goals

Whatever goal-setting method you use, it’s important to review these regularly, as this helps you prioritize your projects. Incorporate this into your weekly maintenance routine.

4. Prioritization

Here’s where you decide what you will focus on for the week. It’s extremely difficult to work with daily to-dos without getting stressed, but setting higher-level priorities for the week is extremely effective. Relate them to your long-term goals. Maybe you need to work on writing that next book, but landing 3 interviews might be a quicker win for that goal you’ve set to double your email list.

Moving Forward

This system takes a couple hours to set up and about one hour per week to manage, but I can guarantee that it is a worthwhile investment. It forces you to be organized and prioritized, and if used correctly you will always know what you should be working on, even if you are juggling half a dozen projects like me!

I’ve been asked many times how I move so fast and do so many things while keeping track of everything. Previously: I was a stressed-out neurotic mess half the time. Now: I maintain a relaxed, organized focus.

Do you plan on customizing this system in any way? If so leave a comment and let me know! There’s always room for improvement.

Credit to The Secret Weapon for the inspiration for this system.

My Experience Quitting Caffeine: How It Sucks But Why It’s Worth It

I have a love-hate relationship with caffeine. I love drinking big ass Starbucks coffees, but I’ve always felt the huge toll that it takes as well, often in the form of insane insomnia! I actually got my DNA tested which revealed that I have the gene to metabolize caffeine slowly – 4-6 hour half-life my ass!

But the delightful smell of coffee in the morning….

Despite the temporary awesomeness of consuming the above, I’ve noticed too many costs over the years of excessive consumption:

  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Feeling a huge downswing in mental acuity as it wears off
  • Not to mention the psychological addiction

So enough is enough. Time to quit. Below are the notes I took on my exact experiences, just to give an idea of what is in store for you addicts out there should you ever quit. I did extensive research beforehand so I could know what to expect, but unfortunately individual experiences seemed to vary wildly.

For comparative purposes: I am 6′ 2″, 180 lbs at the time of this experiment, and have been consuming an estimated average of 200-400 mg of caffeine almost every day for the past 3 years. I am also genetically sensitive to caffeine (hence the side effects even at that relatively “low” dose compared to some).

Preparation: 1 day reduction down to approximately 100-150mg.

Day 1
I was stupid and consumed soy protein before sleep (confounding variable) which distinctly impacted my mood in negative way. I suspect possibly as a hormonal effect of the soy. But either way pre-breakfast was fine. The hard part is after breakfast when I needed to sit down to work I still felt crappy rather than awake. That crappy morning feeling basically never went away. Slight headache, but mostly feeling spacy and exhausted and even slightly depressed. I went to work out, and while it wasn’t the best workout I got through it and felt better afterwards. In order to subvert temptations, I am rewarding myself for staying off caffeine by consuming things I like but that I don’t normally allow myself to eat much of (dried fruit, chocolate, etc). Although I suppose the caffeine content of chocolate makes it somewhat of a cheat.

I actually got a decent amount of stuff done, just in very short bursts with lots of breaks. My attention span was totally shot, but pomodoros worked decently. By the time night rolled around I basically felt normal. My takeaway is that the hard part is lacking the caffeinated high during working that I will really have to overcome.

Sleep was restless with crazy constant dreaming.

Day 2
Woke up feeling similar to yesterday, maybe 10% better. Same thing – after breakfast my body expects to be caffeinated and I have trouble starting the day without that feeling, especially since everything I do with my time is self-motivated. Thought: maybe I should set up more extensive external sources of motivation for the time being. One thing I’ve already done is told the staff here to refuse me coffee and tea. Self control contracts are the best!

I also think I am noticing a trend already – I feel like shit right when my body expects caffeine, but evantually it gets over it and I feel ok. Already this is happening sooner, so I imagine over the next several days the “shit” period that I have to push through in the morning will get shorter and shorter then disappear completely – woot!

Nope I lied continued to feel exhausted most of the day.

Day 3
Actually didn’t sleep that well. But woke up slightly easier, still dying for some caffeine. The funny thing is it’s not withdrawal symptoms but impatience with my sluggish brain that makes me want caffeine so bad. Or maybe that’s my way of rationalizing cravings.

I cheated – 1 cup of black tea. Self control fail. Went hiking up a mountain. My body does more or less fine despite the perception of fatigue. It’s just the tail ends of workouts that are suffering slightly but no biggie.

Day 4
Woke up at 415am after going to sleep at 10pm. Coincidence? I tried to go back to sleep but now I’m just watching the beach sunrise at 5 (finally for the first time haha). Apparently there have been some dolphins hanging out here in the early mornings. Confounding variable: two glasses of wine last night (Glutamine rebound possibly causing the abrupt awakening).

Either way I so hope this is from the caffeine change. Feels awesome being awake this early. Got all the time in the world and some time to myself with nature.

IMG_3707

Makes me wonder about my natural sleep requirements in the absence of caffeine. I’ve always assumed I was one of the people who genuinely needs 8.5 hours. Super excited to see if it’s truly less [Edit: it is only slightly less, this was an anomally]. That alone would make staying off caffeine totally worth it! And it would be no wonder – people who sleep that much less often drink little caffeine or stop quite early.

Also this is only one datapoint, but I am noticing that despite 6 hours of sleep I feel a much different kind of tired. Normally when I don’t sleep much I feel very stressed with high levels of inflammation. Right now I just feel relaxed and kinda sleepy. It was always the inflammation and feeling of stress that made me hate lack of sleep most. This might also be a (highly awesome) result of nixing the caffeine. Will have to observe. [Edit: this has proved true over time]

Getting so much done today! Laid down for an hour – didn’t sleep but just rested a bit. Besides that I’ve been powering through nonstop! I’m not moving quite as fast as when I’m caffeinated, but super consistently so more is getting done overall.

My motivation, energy and mood are all back (and quite high).

I worked out and took an hour break after, but aside from that and laying down an hour I was working away from 6am to about 730pm after 6 hours of sleep, and on only a cup of tea. I still feel like I could keep going another 2 hours easy. Just hoping this is not a fluke and I can do this most days! It will be incredibly ironic if this keeps up, because I’ll have been only 5 days from feeling this awesome for the past 3 years, just somehow never ended up over the hump.

Day 5
Had trouble sleeping last night (I blame tea at noon) so I woke up a little groggy, but still able to jump out of bed and get going which was rare before. This morning I am having green tea, sort of offsetting last night. Makes it clear how the caffeine cycle ends up working! From now on I will occasionally have 1 cup green tea only in the morning if I am super groggy.

Yeah… I feel way worse today. It’s either the black tea yesterday or delayed effect of less sleep 2 nights ago.

Day 6
No caffeine whatsoever. Kinda sleepy today because I didn’t sleep well again, but still pretty productive – I really see what people are saying about energy levels being more consistent throughout the day. I no longer feel totally stupid on the downswings in the evening, nor manic and tense on upswings.

Normally I would have drank extra caffeine to compensate for lack of sleep, but not doing so made falling asleep this night much easier.

Day 7
Slept great, woke up feeling awesome. This is basically the end of the experiment, but I already know I will continue with it indefinitely.

Day 8 and beyond
This was never meant to be a strict “never touch caffeine again” situation. While eliminating caffeine was a great decision, I am still a bit sluggish in the mornings. So now my tolerance is reset, I still drink green tea some mornings, as the content is too low for most negative side effects or tolerance. I’ve tried coffee again (1 cup in the morning a couple times to see if it might be occasionally useful) and while the effect is distinct, the downsides are just plain not worth it unless the situation is dire – there is noticeable tension, rebound effects when it wears off, and adverse gastrointestinal reactions, and even with 1 cup of coffee I still tend to sleep like shit that night. Even then modafinil (Note: blog post on this coming soon..) is probably a better option anyways! I do miss a super nice late though! The takeaway for me is that coffee is an indulgence that should be used only in life or death circumstances (like having to drive all night) and tea is ok in small doses. Caffeine is alluring but slow and steady wins the race!

Summary of positive effects experienced by the end of this process:
Better sleep (even though I still have screwy sleep, it’s less screwy)
Wake up much easier in the emornings
Consistent energy levels
Better awareness of true biorhythms
Better digestive functioning
Happier and less anxiety
See potential for a possible reduction in total need for sleep
Overall similar productivity, but over a longer consistent timeline instead of bursts

The only real downside: Not having a synthetic way of quickly jacking up motivation and energy. Sometimes this is really useful, but just something to work around.

Transition period: solid 3 days, although some other people say it takes up to a week

Keep and eye out for the documentation of my next 2 experiments: 1) Taking Modafinil (the Limitless pill) and 2) Intermittent Fasting.

Eating Brown Slop For 30 Days: What I Learned

It has now been approximately 1 month since I started regularly (and primarily) consuming Soylent.

Results: reduced food costs by about 1/3, gained about 12 pounds (primarily muscle), all while only spending about 10 minute on average for food preparation per day, buying everything off Amazon, and no cleaning dishes whatsoever…score!

Soylent is the name for a “food replacement” substance that you can mix, usually to maximize the benefits of convenience, cost-effectiveness, preservability, and complete nutrition in a single (food-ish?) item.

In a nutshell, think of it as a couple different types of oils, protein powders, and supplement powders mixed together.

Here's that brown goop I love!

Here’s that brown goop I love!

Why I decided I needed Soylent

If you are a young, extremely active male it’s inevitable that you consume a TON of food. Personally, I only eat out at most once per week, because I hate not knowing the nutrient profile of what I’m eating, and of course there’s the expense.

I quite enjoy cooking, but it’s so difficult to maintain without spending tons of time doing it, not to mention cleanup.

I’ve been getting more and more extreme over the past year. From bulk cooking all the way to freezer cooking for an entire month (I made a freezer cooking guide – leave a comment and I would be happy to shoot you the PDF) it was ALL still taking way too much time and effort. Read more